(Photo: KU SID)
Joe Dooley has the highest winning
percentage of any East Carolina basketball coach in the major college
era. While guiding the Pirates' hoops fortunes from the 1996-97 season
through 1998-99, Dooley had a record of 57-52 for those four seasons.
That's a .523 winning percentage.
He was hired from former ECU coach
Eddie Payne's staff by
the late Henry VanSant, who was
filling the athletic director's position on an interim basis after Dave
Hart departed for Florida State. Former Pirates AD Mike Hamrick asked
for Dooley's resignation after a 13-14 season in 1998-99 in which the
Pirates lost 65-62 in double overtime in the first round of the Colonial
Athletic Association Tournament to Old Dominion.
Dooley has been an assistant at New
Mexico, Wyoming and then a top aide at Kansas to Bill Self since leaving
Greenville. He helped guide the Jayhawks to the NCAA title two months
He has long since resolved any
animosity about his departure from ECU.
"You want people that want you at a
particular institution," Dooley said. "If the administration doesn't
want you, then they need to make the changes they deem are necessary.
And East Carolina did.
"You don't always agree with decisions.
They made a decision but it's worked out great for me. I've been able to
do things professionally that I might never have had the opportunity to
do. It reinvigorated me at New Mexico. We had a real good run at New
Mexico and had a great experience.
"Because of New Mexico and places like
that, I ended up here (Kansas). I just think things have a funny way of
working out. They've worked out for me and my family."
A son, Max, now five years old, has
joined the family since Dooley's days at ECU.
"I've always said this about East
Carolina," Dooley said. "Ninety-nine percent of the people there were
great to me. Do I look back bitter or anything? No. It's nine or 10
years already so I really have nothing negative to say about the place."
The Pirates have since graduated to
Conference USA, making current comparisons to the Dooley era one of
those apples and oranges things.
Effective prep for Tar Heels
Kansas took an early 40-12 lead in the
NCAA semifinals over top-seeded North Carolina, then withstood a run
that saw the Tar Heels draw within four points before the Jayhawks
pulled away to an 84-66 victory.
"Coach Self said that it was a tale of
three games," Dooley said. "Thankfully, we won two of them."
The Jayhawks dominated to an almost
inconceivable extent during portions of that contest that matched Tar
Heels coach Roy Williams against his former program.
"We had a good week of preparation for
Carolina and had some things we felt like we had to work on," Dooley
said. "We were able to get them in and get them in early in the week.
Our guys did a real good job of focusing in on a couple of things. We
didn't try to give them a ton of things to do.
"We just talked about a couple of
things and said if we do these things we'll give ourselves a chance. The
guys locked in and did what they were supposed to do."
The Kansas game plan for the Tar Heels
was not rocket science.
"They're a great transition team and we
talked about limiting transition baskets," Dooley said. "The other thing
we were really concerned with was rebounding the ball. They were leading
the nation in rebound margin. I think at that point they had
outrebounded 31 straight teams.
"We were a pretty good rebounding team
and we thought if we could get the ball off the board we could get some
transition baskets. We were able to do that."
The Jayhawks won 42-33 on the boards.
Dooley has been rated as one of the
nation's elite recruiters by Rivals.com in recent years. He is credited
with bringing McDonald's All-Americas such as Cole Aldrich, Tyrel Reed,
Mario Chalmers and Julian Wright into the Jayhawks program. Aldrich gave
KU some big minutes against North Carolina and Chalmers hit the clutch
three that sent the national final with Memphis into overtime.
Kansas had a better showing in the
national semifinals than in its regional final against Davidson. The
Jayhawks managed a 59-57 win over the Wildcats in Detroit to earn their
berth in San Antonio. Davidson coach Bob McKillop played his freshman
season at ECU before transferring to Hofstra.
"Coach McKillop's done a great job,"
Dooley said. "They turned into the Cinderella, which was sort of funny.
You're a one seed and you play America's darling. You're supposed to be
on a neutral court but we almost felt like we were playing a road game
because everybody sort of adopted Davidson.
"They had a great run and had a great
player (Stephen Curry). It was neat from the outside, watching them
play. Then, all of sudden, here's the situation where you have to play
them. Everybody talks about that shot that they missed."
With 16 seconds left and Kansas leading
59-57 before a crowd of 57,563, Davidson had the ball and called
timeout. With one second left, Davidson senior Jason Richards heaved a
three-point attempt that sailed left of the rim.
"We were up six with a minute left,"
Dooley said. " ... We didn't handle that great yet when we got that
monkey off our back our guys focused in great on the Final Four."
Suggestions vs. decisions
Dooley has developed an understanding
through experience as to the difference between being a head coach and
"As an assistant coach, you're a
suggestion maker," he said. "As the head coach you're a decision maker.
In a lot of situations a head coach can delegate responsibilities but
there are a lot of things a head coach has to deal with that an
assistant coach does not."
That said, Dooley would like to make
the move from suggestion maker to decision maker if the opportunity
presents itself. He would seem to have solid credentials to seek a
"I'm very content at Kansas but I would
like to be a head coach again," Dooley said. "Fortunately for us we're
at a place where we can be very selective and see what opportunities
arise and see what are good fits for us. I'm very happy here but by the
same token I definitely want to be a head coach again."
ECU connections endure
Dooley stays in touch through texting
or talking to a number of his former ECU players.
"I saw Othello Meadows when we were at
Georgia Tech this past season," Dooley said. "Tony Parham, Garrett
Blackwelder, Von Bryant, Jonathan Kerner — I've stayed in touch with.
Every now and then Dink Peters calls or texts me. I got an e-mail from
Steven Branch recently. He's actually teaching school right there in
Greenville. He sent me an e-mail and updated me on some of the guys."
Dooley knows current ECU coach Mack
McCarthy, who was coaching Virginia Commonwealth when Dooley was
directing the Pirates.
"Mack has been able to adapt at
different places," Dooley said. "He was very successful at UTC
(Tennessee-Chattanooga) with some very athletic guys. He was able to
adapt and had some bigger-bodied guys at VCU. Mack's a good basketball
man. He's smart and he's been around."
Dooley said resources are a huge factor
in the development of a program in ECU's position.
"Unless you have the resources to
control your schedule, which takes funding, because then you can buy
games so you're not always playing home and home and those type of
things," Dooley said. "I don't know all the dynamics (of ECU's current
situation). I would think you'd be able to recruit a higher caliber guy
because you're in Conference USA.
"I would think that would be a bonus
for them but I don't know all the dynamics of what they're spending and
all those types of things. I know what we were doing when I was there
but I don't know where they are in the league now."